My dad has oodles of catch phrases. Seriously. The man is the king of one-liners. One of his favorites (I’d rank it a solid #3) is, “That’s how they get ya”.
Gas prices, a $.10 increase in the cost of broccoli, cell phone contracts. The list has changed with every passing decade and goes on, and on, and on.
There is always someone out to get your money. Saints and sinners alike. Trust no one and go without before you let them win.
As the years have slipped by his attitude has remained the same, but his favorite saying has a much darker turn now.
“That’s how they get ya. If I buy (insert any item under the sun here) I’ll die before I can use it.”
New boots, dentures, a recliner. With any purchase we could find ourselves at the mercy of the gauntlet. The second those new boots are laced up, the grim reaper will be given his orders to take him out.
Though this is a part of my dad’s essential make up, I’ve tried everything to change his way of thinking.
I’ve been supportive. “Dad, get what you need and want to enjoy the time you have left.”
I’ve been manipulative. “Dad, a new pair of shoes will give you more support and may help you get back to doing the things you love.”
I’ve been honest. “Dad, you’re crazy.”
All of it was for naught. This is a battle and he will be the victor.
One day, dad’s lower leg edema (fluid retention) was making him very uncomfortable. This created a sticky situation. It was the last day ice cream was 2 for $5.00. I offered to go get what he wanted, after all, he will literally eat any flavor. He debated it, but after a few moments decided I was not up to that challenge.
So off we went.
After driving through the store on a motorized cart like he was in the Indy 500 (I followed behind smiling and apologizing to everyone we passed) he scored his 6 gallons of ice cream.
Did I mention he’s diabetic?
When checking out I noticed the state of his wallet. Ragged and torn, the once black leather was now green from wear. Instead of hearing the inevitable “That’s how they get you” speech, I went out the next day and bought him a new wallet.
A few days later, I noticed my dad was still using that worn, ragged wallet.
The day I discovered this, it was on the tip of my tongue to make a comment. Something, probably God himself, shut my mouth. This is worth noting. Thinking before I speak is not my super-power.
I thought about that wallet the whole drive home. “Why do I bother? I try to get him what he needs and he won’t even use it.” As if my dad using that old wallet was a reflection of my caregiving skills.
What I did next won’t come as a surprise to any male reading this. I did what any woman does when she knows she’s right. I called my husband to complain.
Per his usual, my husband unleashed his God-given gift for psychotherapy.
“Lori, your dad doesn’t care what his wallet looks like. What are we doing for dinner?”
Oh. Maybe there’s a hidden point in there.
My dad didn’t say he needed a new wallet. He never asked my opinion on his wallet. I decided what he needed. I acted on what I believed he needed.
He was happy with his Hobo wallet.
Many words come to mind when we think of caregivers. One that isn’t attributed to our group enough is the word leader. Though weird, and sometimes twisted, being a caregiver is a leadership role and the best leaders have a servant’s heart.
In my wallet scenario, one of us (my dad and I) were desperate to gain the power we were losing. I’ll give you a hint.
It wasn’t my dad.
At the time, I was trying to decide if my dad would begin taking a diuretic to treat the fluid filling his body. We had done everything we could short of a medication and it was only getting worse. His breathing was being affected. His cough was increasing. The problem was his cardiologist was doubtful his heart was strong enough for the med.
Do I give my dad a med that could kill him quick or watch him slowly drown?
My options sucked.
Though I was the one with the ultimate cosmic power, I didn’t feel very powerful. I certainly didn’t feel like I had any control.
When I saw that wallet, I saw a problem I could fix. To walk in and have that problem still staring me in the face… Oh no he didn’t! He’s going to carry that new wallet!
Losing control on one front was causing me to pick a battle to gain control over the most senseless thing. I forgot I was a leader and servant leaders don’t hold on to power and control with both hands.
Ironic that the person who just took a diabetic to buy 6 gallons of ice cream needed control.
As far as dad’s fluid retention, there was no choice. We had to try. Since I’m writing this blog about him, you can probably surmise he survived. Big Jim proved them wrong again.
You’ll also be happy to know I’ve learned my lesson.
I was faced with a similar situation recently. My dad has a favorite shirt. He wears it constantly. Like a kid with a blankie, he waits on the dryer to finish to throw it back on.
To him it’s perfect in every way. A button up, because pulling shirts over his head is getting tough. The pocket is nice and broke-in to accommodate the three pairs of glasses he carries. The length is perfect on his long torso.
Unfortunately, it’s the most hideous color of mustard ever conceived. It’s so intense it hurts my feelings.
My first thought was to order him a couple shirts. The exact same shirt. Same brand. Same cut, just in a different color. Any other color.
BUT, I’ve grown.
“Dad do you want me to order you a second shirt. I can get the exact same one online… maybe in a nice navy?”
“Why would I need two?”
It brought to mind when my daughters would wear tutus and snow boots in public in July. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let them win.
“You’re right dad. Why have two when you only wear one at a time.”
And since I know you’re sitting on the edge of your seats, to this day, dad is still using his old wallet.
Carry on dad. Don’t ever let them get ya.